For FALL 2010's delicious offerings of books, art, food, film, and unique travel--check out the NEW ISSUE of our online magazine FEAST--you will not go away hungry-- http://www.feastofbooks.com/

Between issues, read our blog posts as we and our special guests share thoughts, ideas, and recommendations about books, art, food, film, and travel. We love to hear from our readers, so please post a comment! Thanks-- Rosemary Carstens, editor

SNAX ONLINE is moving during the first quarter of 2011 -- stay tuned!

Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Very Special Hometown Book Shop in VT

Our next guest blogger is GREG DENNIS. Greg and I go way back. Probably 20 years ago, when we both lived in a kick-back beach community in Southern California, Greg was the editor of a local newspaper and published one of my very first travel articles about a trip to Egypt. He and his wife are now living happily in Vermont, enjoying the change of seasons. But you can’t keep an old newspaper guy down and he recently was kind enough to agree to post here for FEAST. Welcome Greg!

Page Turns at Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop

For lovers of books and music, the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, VT, has always been a kind of temple. Entering it was like going to church—a high tin ceiling, walls lined with books straight down to the floor, bursting record bins, bleary northern light leaking through windows in the back.

And, most of all, the creaking wooden floor. A single step inside the big front door and the old floor gave a reassuring squeak. God was in his heaven and, inside the four walls of this old emporium, were treasures to be discovered: a new book by a favorite author, a long-out-of-print jazz album.

It was with great trepidation this year that many of us contemplated new owner Becky Dayton's announcement that she would be remodeling the temple. Wasn't it enough that the long gauntlet of nonfiction had been moved? Why some of the world’s most turgid tomes by Herbert Marcuse, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky had sat collecting dust on those shelves for years. Wasn't that worth something?

You could spend 10 minutes there and catch up on all that was wrong with America, just by reading the dust jackets. And then you could wend your way to the back for a novel or an album and be reminded of all that was right with the world. One shelf always held the New York Review of Each Other’s Books.

The music bins were full of LP's by obscure bluesmen. But the Stones’s original “Sticky Fingers” LP—the one with the pulldown zipper on the front cover that many stores refused to carry—was also on especially prominent display.

One inevitably encountered the bullpen island where the sales staff resided. The cast of staff characters changed a bit over the years, but very slowly. As the days approached before the VBS would temporarily close for renovation, I was prepared for the worst.

And, it’s true, in the “new” store the creaky old floor has disappeared. Too worn to refinish, it's been replaced by an attractive carpet. But there's still a spot where you can step and hear the gratifying squeak of the old floor underneath.

The VBS now feels like a small, homey version of Barnes & Noble. There are now actual chairs where one can contemplate a next purchase, or just read a favorite Robert Frost poem pulled from the Vermont section. During the renovation, there emerged forgotten walls of brick and A&P green tile. The windows at the back were opened to the sky, and multiple layers of paint were scraped off the old oaken moldings. The crew even discovered a long forgotten fourth window on the west wall, which had been buried for decades behind a bookshelf.

So why would Becky Dayton commit so many of her waking hours to reviving a bookstore that has yet to generate its first dollar in profit since she bought it? Along with the other small-town heroes who keep America’s downtowns alive, she's on a bit of a mission.

“It's very important that a good small town have a bookstore,” she says. “It's the Third Place, after home and work."

Gregory Dennis is a writer and marketing consultant who lives in Middlebury, Vermont. In addition to advising healthcare technology companies, he's a columnist for the Addison Independent and contributing editor of Vermont Ski & Ride. His travel writing has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, among others. He's been a Vermont Book Shop customer for more than 37 years. Dennis blogs at http://middlburyvt.blogspot.com/.


Anonymous said...

Living in the small town of Grass Valley in the Sierra Foothills of California, I understand completely the importance in the statement "that a good small town have a bookstore,” and that “It's the Third Place, after home and work." Describing the Vermont Book Store has a ring of familiarity. Our small gold rush town is considered a Book Town...because of the wonderful collection of small bookstores with creaking floors. Thanks for your portrayal. Suzanne Hall

ClaireWalter said...

IMHO, it's important for any city or town to have a good bookstore. Boulder is fortunate to have a good independent bookstore, but all such businesses are under seige -- creaking floors or not. The local paper had a recent article on their plight (http://dailycamera.com/news/2007/dec/03/staying-alive-boulders-independent-bookstores/), so it is especially good to read a tribute to a survivor in Vermont.

ClaireWalter said...

I've recently been haunting World Hum and found a list of the travel books their contributors liked best in 2007: http://www.worldhum.com/books/item/travel_books_we_loved_2007_20071206